If you’ve been on BookTok (the book lover’s side of TikTok) for any period of time last year, you might have heard about Lexi Ryan’s These Hollow Vows. BookTok definitely has a soft spot for fairy tales and fairy stories in general, so These Hollow Vows fit pretty neatly into the algorithm. Most readers were left screaming from shock at the finale, which had quite the cliffhanger – so it’s been a long 365 days while waiting for the fallout in the final entry of the duology.
As a refresher, These Twisted Bonds picks up almost immediately where These Hollow Vows left off. Unseelie crown-carrying human girl Brie has saved her sister from the imposter Unseelie King, but ultimately, she’s been betrayed by the Seelie Prince Sebastian. Sebastian has slipped Brie the Potion of Life, turning her into a fairy against her wishes. This betrayal is further compounded, when it’s revealed that Sebastian is also half-Unseelie and the half-brother to the final side of Brie’s love triangle, Unseelie Prince Finn (are you keeping up?). After bonding with Brie, Sebastian has stolen the Unseelie crown from her, pushing his half-brother Prince Finn out of contention for their father’s throne.
Whew… That was a lot. But hopefully if you’re reading this, you read These Hollow Vows already and this was merely a recap; if not, that gibberish will make sense when you do! As stated, These Twisted Bonds picks up right in the middle of the action. Brie is pissed. She’s using her powers of darkness to escape The Seelie Queen’s palace and put some much-needed distance between herself and Sebastian. Unfortunately, that pesky bond he somewhat tricked her into means he has an ever-present link to her. Ryan did an incredible job writing the emotional turmoil a connection like that would have on a character who has been so devastatingly betrayed.
Brie doesn’t wallow in despair. She channels her powers (that have now become fully realized after turning fey) into action, and not action that benefits herself. Immediately after her mad dash from the Seelie Queen’s castle, Brie throws herself into the rescue of captured Unseelie children from The Seelie Queen’s detainment camps, briefly discussed in These Hollow Vows. These camps and the Unseelie children become the main focus of this final installment, as well as who the rightful ruler of the Unseelie court is. For as much as Sebastian controls the crown, it is evident he doesn’t have the loyalty of the people or the land yet.
Readers will be excited to know some interesting side characters from These Hollow Vows get a little more page time in the new release. A stand out being Pretha’s brother, Misha; King of the Wild Fae Lands. Misha is likable, helpful, and a sound friend to Brie when she’s been betrayed by so many she trusted in Faerie. We also get a look into the unique marriage he shares with Amira, and how Pretha feels about it. Because of Misha, we’re able to get some chapters in this book outside of Brie’s point-of-view, which I preferred. These scenes give us a much needed window into the goings-on of Sebastian and Finn while Brie is separated from them. Regardless of the fissures between these three, they’re all integral to determining who belongs on the Unseelie throne.
Lexi Ryan’s writing possibly does the unthinkable – and finds a way to humanize Prince Sebastian, even though he seemed like quite the villain at the end of These Hollow Vows. Ryan also excels at a love triangle, still keeping the option of Prince Sebastian or Prince Finn as the endgame romance. I’ll leave it up to readers to discover if one does eventually pull ahead, but I will say there is plenty of plot and conflict to keep you guessing until the last second.
As a final thought, I really enjoyed this book, but it quite possibly could have been (dare I say it) two books. Yes, I hate it when a series is three books and not enough plot to parse out between them, but I actually think These Twisted Bonds had almost too much plot. I could have used a little breathing room between everything happening and the big decisions that lead into the last chapters of the book. All in all, that’s not a terrible complaint to have. I was almost surprised when there was a conclusion, because I was convinced at the 75% mark that there was no way it would be wrapped up. But wrapped up it was, and Lexi Ryan offered a romantic and satisfying ending to this fantasy romance duology. I’ll be interested in seeing what Ryan, a predominantly contemporary-romance author, does next. Will she continue to write in the fae world she’s developed or further explore the fantasy genre? Regardless of her choice, These Hollow Vows & These Twisted Bonds successfully captured the tone, relationships, and adventure that fantasy romance readers are rabid for.
These Twisted Bonds by Lexi Ryan is available today at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.
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